If it’s a bucket list item to see the Northern Lights, going to Tromso, up in Northern Norway – remote and far away from the light pollution of big cities – is basically the equivalent of trying to stack the entire deck in your favour as much as possible. And yet, the thing about chasing Northern Lights is that you’re still battling against fate and luck…. and sometimes, bad luck wins.
It was looking dicey from the start when we woke up at 7AM to a snowy, winter wonderland of a view in Tromso, with completely blank skies and low-hanging clouds. Nevertheless and luckily, we still embarked on the 24hr expedition with Green Gold of Norway.
Green Gold of Norway’s ‘basecamp’ is a gorgeous house located right by the side of a fjord in the Lygen Alps, a 1.5hr bus-ferry-car ride from Tromso in a landscape straight out of your wildest dreams.
The journey there was filled with non-stop gasp-worthy moments, even on a cloudy, low-visibility day that lent the place a sort of mythical stillness as we drove past mountains that disappear into the clouds and ice-covered fjords covered in low-hanging clouds. Yep, clouds.
As we were on the 24hr expedition, this meant the entire basecamp and all its resources – snowshoes, skis and beautiful woodland surrounds covered in a thick, fluffy layer of snow – were ours to use for the entire afternoon after a lunch meal of fish soup.
“Is there some sort of specific place we should go, so we get the best view?” I asked one of our hosts.
She blinked at us, then gestured out the window. “Just go anywhere!”
When you’re this spoiled for views, it was fitting advice.
Two hours later, it was time for our snowmobile safari experience, which promised to take us way further than we could trek in the snow. After wrapping ourselves up in special thermal bodysuits provided by the basecamp and a quick tutorial later (two to a snowmobile, so you have time to admire the view as long as you trusted your partner to steer!), we were zooming off through the mountains.
The best way to experience Norway’s remote mountains, I think, is to be as active as possible; literally hanging off the side of the snowmobile to maneuver it through bends gave me the perfect rush of adrenaline to accompany the reality that we were zooming through the Norwegian mountains.
The hot tea I drank while staring out into an alien-like landscape filled with thickly falling snow is something I will never, ever forget.
I think the homemade lamb curry, hummus pasta, rice and salad would have been delicious anywhere but it was doubly so after working up such an appetite from all the exercise. And yet, the evening was only just beginning.
While you can choose the comfort of the house, the ‘Crystal Lavvos’ (huts) within walking distance of the main house are where I recommend you sleep. Warmed by woodfire ovens (which unfortunately you do have to stoke every half hour yourself), they are traditional, rustic wooden huts with a pointed roof of clear glass, designed so you can lie on the soft bed, staring right up at the stars.
That is – when you’re not outside watching for the Northern Lights. Also, please do bring a DSLR camera and not just your iPhone if you can – Green Gold of Norway’s staff have free tripods and will help you adjust your camera settings so it’s worth trying to get a proper photo of the lights if you can.
If you’re this far up North in Tromso and Norway between January and March, low clouds are really the biggest enemy you can face because the actual lights are likely to appear at least a little bit every night.
Unfortunately low cloud cover blocking the lights was exactly what happened that night, though we managed to get some small flashes of green behind cloud cover (less visible to the naked eye than on camera) to the general awed cries of everyone staying at the basecamp that night, before we all resigned ourselves to the fact we weren’t going to see more.
And yet, standing outside the crystal lavvo at 2AM when the skies had become clear but the lights had faded, I found myself staring up at the bright night sky and glowing full moon, breathing in the crisp cold air, very happy. There’s just something about the surroundings that makes everything worth it, even the not-so-fortunate stuff.
As if to apologise for the rather poor aurora showing the night before, I awoke to a pastel sunrise of clear, almost impossible beauty, with fire-lit clouds shining. Our breakfast was a simple one but featured the most delicious smoked salmon I’ve tasted.
There’s no way around it – a 24hr expedition with Green Gold of Norway is going to be expensive and will always be a gamble, but if you’ve travelled almost the entire way around the world to land in Tromso and its fantasy winter wonderland of a landscape, I think you owe it to yourself to experience something like this at least once, with or without the Northern Lights.
(luckily, we caught them the following night… stay tuned for more)
Green Gold of Norway
Phone: +47 92809057
Web: Green Gold of Norway
I Ate My Way Through travelled as guests of Green Gold of Norway.